“I Appeal to Caesar” – Acts 25 & 26
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Ask yourself, "Has my life gone the way I planned?"
Have you ever heard the saying:
"If you want to hear God laugh, tell
Him your plans"?
Thankfully, God overrules our plans at times:
There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
With His plan:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
I'm sure at times the Apostle Paul had the same issues.
He had made plans to serve God as a righteous Jew:
But God had a better plan:
In these chapters, we will again see God's perfect plan for Paul according to His sovereignty, through His providence.
Paul's Defense Before Felix
But after two years Porcius Festus succeeded Felix; and Felix, wanting to do the Jews a favor, left Paul bound.
* Porcius Festus, Procurator for 2 years (AD 59-62), died in office. A just governor, tolerant of Jewish customs, but still held Roman law as supreme. (Josephus)
"...After three days he went up from Caesarea to Jerusalem..."
* Festus was no procrastinator like Felix. He left his capital quickly to establish relationship with those he governed.
"...asking a favor against him (Paul)...to kill him."
* The chief priests could not get over their hatred for Paul and his Lord.
* This is their second plot to kill Paul while in Roman custody.(Acts 23:12-15)
"...Paul should be kept at Caesarea..."
* Festus was not fooled; Felix had informed him of the first plot.
* To agree to the Jews request would show weakness. No Roman bowed to a Jew.
"...the Jews...laid many serious complaints against Paul, which they could not prove."
* Again, for the third time.
- Claudius Lysias and the Sanhedrin. (Acts 23:1-10)
- Felix and the chief priests. (Acts 24:1-22)
Paul Appeals to Caesar
"But Festus wanting to do the Jews a favor..."
* Why would a Roman Procurator (Governor), (Felix also - vs. 24:27), "want to do the Jews a favor?"
The Jews were a "stiff-necked," rebellious (stubborn), people and hard to govern. Sometimes a little accommodation goes a long way.
"...I do not object to dying..."
* Paul knew he was in Christ's will.
For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
Because he had already died:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
"...I appeal to Caesar..."
* Every Roman citizen had this right, to have his case heard and judged by Caesar.
"You have appealed to Caesar? To Caesar you shall go!"
* This freed Festus from the responsibility of judging and sentencing Paul, and further antagonizing the Jews.
* More importantly, Paul would now get a free ticket to Rome just as Jesus said:
But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome." (Acts 23:11)
Festus and Agrippa
* Herod Agrippa II, his father, Herod Agrippa I died in Caesarea (Acts 12:21-23) after beheading James and arresting Peter. (Acts 12:1-3)
* Great grandson of Herod the Great, great nephew of Herod Antipas.
* A weak king, supporter of Rome, opposed the Jewish revolt of AD 66.
* Sister of Agrippa II and Drusilla. (Acts 24:24)
* Later the mistress of the Roman General Titus (later Emperor) during the siege of Jerusalem.
"...no accusation against him of such things as I supposed."
* Again, God's sovereignty can be seen in Paul's life.
* Festus, although accommodating the Jewish leaders for political reasons, was an honest judge, unlike Felix, and found no guilt in Paul deserving death.
"...questions against him about their own religion..."
* Roman judges cared not for Jewish law (Acts 18:14-15), nor would they enforce it.
"...Jesus, who had died, whom Paul affirmed to be alive."
* The chief priests were Sadducees and did not believe in the resurrection. (Acts 4:1-2)
* Then, as now, this doctrine causes more people to stumble and deny Christ more than any other.
* Yet it is central to the faith:
"Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures..."
(1 Cor. 15:1-4)
"But when Paul appealed to be reserved for the decision of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I could send him to Caesar."
* "Augustus" - Caesar Augustus was synonymous for all the emperors in Rome.
* At the time of Paul's "appeal to Caesar," the wicked Nero was Emperor.
Paul's Defense Before King Agrippa
"...when Agrippa and Bernice had come with great pomp..."
* "Great pomp" - Phantasia (Gk.), a vain show or display, lacking real substance - pageantry. (Strong's 5325)
"...the commanders and prominent men of the city..."
* "Commanders" - Tribunes, there were five cohorts of Roman troops stationed in Caesarea at this time.
* "Prominent men" - Politicians, Caesarea was the Roman capital of the Province of Judea.
"...you see this man..."
* Paul was an unimpressive figure amongst all this "pomp!"
* According to Titus, as told to Onesiphorus of Antioch, Paul was:
"Small in size, bald headed, bow legged, well-built with eyebrows that met, a rather long nose and full of grace."
"...the Jews petitioned me both at Jerusalem and here...that he was not fit to live any longer."
* This, obviously, was a common "petition" for the Jewish religious leaders before Roman governors.
Pilate said to them, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!" Then the governor said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!"
But Paul was a Roman citizen, unlike Jesus of Nazareth, and could "appeal to Caesar."
"...after the examination...specify the charge..."
* Agrippa was curious about Paul, who was so hated by the Jews and wanted to examine him.
* Festus needed evidence and "charges" before he could send Paul to "Caesar."
"...you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews..."
* Paul knew Agrippa, though Idumean, was a ruler over the Jews by Roman decree and would have knowledge of them.
"...if they were willing to testify..."
* Paul speaks truth, unlike his Jewish antagonists.
"...the hope of the promise made to our fathers..."
* "The hope of the promise" is the Messiah, the coming King of Israel*, who came: "...died for our sins...He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures." (1 Cor. 15:3-4)
* Most Jews believed in the resurrection of the dead as promised by God to "the fathers" through the prophets.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.
“…concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!" (Acts 23:6)
* The Jews also believed in the promise of the coming Messiah, the “Son of David:
"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever........And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”
(2 Sam. 7:12-13, 16)
...looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:13-14)
* Gen. 3:15, 22:18, 26:4, 49:10, Deut. 18:15, 2 Sam. 7:12, Ps. 132:11, Isa. 4:2, 7:14, 9:6, 40:10, Jer. 23:5, 33:14-16, Dan. 9:24, Acts 13:32-34, Rom. 15:8
"...for this hope's sake...I am accused by the Jews."
* Paul would later write to the Philippians while chained in Rome:
Paul's Testimony Before Agrippa
* Only the most urgent travel in the heat of the day.
"...a light from heaven..."
* The Lord Jesus:
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I Am the Light of the World. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of Life."
"But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you."
* In his defense, Paul was a "witness" and "minister" of Christ.
"...to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'
* The purpose and goal of the Gospel.
"...repent, turn to God...do works befitting repentance."
* Our response to the Gospel.
"...witnessing both to small and great..."
* Paul never missed an opportunity to share Christ with anyone, "small" or "great."
Whether it was in defense (apologia - Gk.) of the Gospel or himself, before the powerful or the weak, he was first and foremost a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Do we understand these truths, that we are called to do the same, (Matt. 9:37-38, 28:18-20, Acts 1:8) and proclaim the same?
"...saying no other things...that Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light..."
"...you almost persuade me to become a Christian."
* The saddest words ever heard by a believer after sharing Christ!
"This man is doing nothing deserving of death."
Agrippa, Festus, Bernice
In man's eyes truth, in God's eyes false. We all deserve death; and Paul knew it:
"There is none righteous, no not one;...for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God;...For the wages of sin is death..."
(Rms. 3:10, 23, 6:23a)
"...but, the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar."
Paul was already "free;" Caesar, nor any man, has the power to free us from the death we deserve. Only God has that power and it rests in Jesus Christ alone.
"Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
(1 Jn. 2:2)
And as Paul understood by the grace and mercy of God; and the gratitude that comes from it, we should present our bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service. (Rms. 12:1)
Not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the Spirit within, proving what is the perfect will of God (Rms. 12:2) and fulfilling His plans for our lives, not ours.